(A missing scene for The Escape)
“This way,” I told them with a glance at Scott’s pale, lined face.
Julio and Blake followed me inside the bedroom. I furiously tore the bedding apart with only a fleeting thought for the neatly made bed, coverlet tight and smooth, pillows aligned precisely along the headboard. Scott’s neat style, his neat presence, quiet and orderly and calm, all that I loved about him. Only now…
They deposited Scott on the mattress. There Julio held him upright while Blake yanked off his boots and grabbed for his belt buckle. Quickly I poured water into a basin, dropped a washcloth in.
“Blake, fetch Maria,” I told him. “We’ll need more water and bandages…” Scott flinched, made a sound at the jostling. “And the laudanum. Here…”
I stepped in to Scott; our knees touched as I reached around him with both arms to unknot the black sling that bound his left arm, leaned to one side so that I could see and will my shaking fingers to work. There was blood on his shirt, and under that, bandages across his shoulder…
Scott’s breath slid over me, warmed the fabric of my rolled up sleeve. His head came to rest against my inner arm, his cheek warm and perspiring against my skin.
“Teresa…” His voice was soft, pain-filled.
“Just a minute – how were you hurt?” I rushed on, fumbling over the knot, finally loosening it. “Was it that man, Cassidy? Oh, Scott, how could they?” I slipped the sling from his arm, then practically ripped the buttons from his tattered shirt in my haste to get him undressed. The bandages were sagging, limp with sweat and spotted with blood at the shoulder. I shoved some of the shirt aside, got his right arm out of the sleeve, thrust the material at Julio to finish.
“Leave it.” Scott’s hand plucked at my wrist. He shifted, elbowed Julio aside, made to lie down. Quickly I grabbed for his feet, and with Julio hanging onto a fistful of shirt we eased him onto the mattress.
“Lo siento,” Julio murmured, drawing Scott’s shirt out from where it had bunched up under his back and slipping it off his left arm.
“ S’all right,” Scott returned, closing his eyes and grimacing. “Gracias…”
“I will find the señor,” Julio offered and slipped out.
“Teresa,” Scott said again, his right hand closing again about my arm.
I edged onto the mattress, my fast breaths matching his shallow ones. “Shh, no talk,” I urged, settling the covers over him. I grabbed the soaking washcloth, wrung it savagely, tried to fold it but it only balled up in my fingers. I passed the crumpled mess over his furrowed brow, wiped at the beads of sweat dotted there, caught a trickle slipping down his cheek. He watched me with that unwavering blue-gray gaze of his, his eyes squinting just a little at the pain. I wiped some more to rid his skin of the collected heat, worried by the gray hue of his face and his colorless set of his lips.
“Slow down,” he told me as his hand found mine and squeezed, his fingers sweaty. “I’m all right.”
My upset poured out. I couldn’t help it – I’d been panicked with worry and fear all day, a vision of his broken, lifeless body floating behind my eyes whenever I closed them. “You’re not all right!” I cried at him, the useless tears trickling out. “You’ve been gone for hours – hours! And look, you’ve been shot! It was Cassidy, wasn’t it? He tried killing you. His wife – she came here – she told us--”
His head, hair all dusty and sweat-soaked, came off the pillow. “What did she…?” he demanded, his grip tightening.
“It’s not important now,” I swiftly hushed back his alarm, brushing some sticky strands back from his temple. “Oh, Scott…” The lump in my throat hurt so badly. “They hurt you.”
He extracted his hand from mine, brushed at some of my tears with his thumb. The touch made more spill, blinding me, and then I had to hug him, had to stretch myself across his torso to hug that wounded, exhausted body, try to absorb some of his hurt and ease my raging fear.
“Sweet Teresa,” he murmured to me, his voice whispering in my hair, pronouncing my name in the way I so loved, Te-RAY-sa. “Don’t cry…” His hand, fingers burning, stroked my back.
I knew this closeness was wrong. I had to get up, because soon Maria and likely Murdoch would be bustling in to treat and bandage, things I should already be doing. But I held onto him for a stolen moment more, taking in the feel of his blanketed body under me, his hand on my back, his voice in my hair…
And his soft admission to me.